Bruce Campbell - Ash
Ellen Sandwess - Cheryl
Hal Delrich - Scotty
Betsy Baker - Linda
Sarah York - Shelly
Year - 1982
Score - 4 Howls Outta 4
I've always had a thing about conjuring up the dead. I've thought about buying a Ouija board, but no one wants to mess around with it with me. I've done the "Bloody Mary" thing in front of the mirror. Nothing happens except for disappointment. Call me a masochist but I would have liked to have gotten one message from the dead. Even if it was from Keith Richards, I would be totally satisfied.
Okay...I'm lying. I'm a total pussy and I would never mess with the dead. I'd probably pee and shit on myself if something supernatural like that did occur. I'm sure Sam Raimi's low-budget directorial debut, THE EVIL DEAD, had a lot to do with that fear as I grew up. I hadn't seen it in over ten years and it still creeps me out today like it did back then.
A group of five friends drive up to a cabin for a relaxing weekend. Inside the creepy cabin, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Scotty (Hal Delrich) find a book bound by human flesh. They also find a tape recording left by a professor who was at the cabin researching things to raise the dead. Once the tape starts speaking in backwards tongue, the woods come alive. Cheryl (Ellen Sandwess) goes out to investigate and is raped by the trees. She manages to escape and tries to warn her friends about the woods. It's too late, however, as Cheryl succumbs to the demonic forces that have awoken, possessing her. Her friends lock her in the cellar, but her bite and presence has infected the others - each one turning into a demon except for Ash. Can Ash save himself from his demonic friends? Or will he succumb to the possession himself as well?
THE EVIL DEAD is a classic piece of horror cinema. With five friends, a camera, and a $50,000 budget, Sam Raimi created a film that not only put his name on the map, but a film that has grown a cult following for 25 years. And why is this film so beloved? Because it's a fan's film full of kinetic energy, great characters, and cheaply made special effects that while dated, are still entertaining to look at.
What helps THE EVIL DEAD are the great camaraderie between the five actors in the film. They all act like real people. They all speak like real people. There's no stereotypes here. They look like normal people you would encounter on the street that are accidentally put in a situation most of us would hate to be a part of. Sure, some of the dialogue and banter is very dated and even laughable. But that's what makes THE EVIL DEAD so endearing and charming. It's not trying to be perfect and I can appreciate that. We get enough character development just due to the way they act around each other, which makes us sympathize with them and fear for their lives when the demonic stuff happens. If modern horror films do as much with their characters as THE EVIL DEAD does with theirs, the world of cinema would be a better, more entertaining place without horrible remakes and sequels.
The SFX is pretty much the best it can be with a $50,000 budget. The blood splatters like it was water, cascading onto Ash and the screen more and more as the film reaches its end. Obviously Sam Raimi was inspired by Italian horror cinema, like Argento and Fulci films, and George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD when it came to blood and especially the make-up. The demons are freaky looking, with their pale skin and white eyes. Even the voices are distorted to create an uncomfortable sound for the possessed friends. And while some of the effects included really obvious looking dummies and really dated claymation sequences, they are no less than creepy. I'm sure they're gonna use CGI in the remake that's being produced, but I feel the homemade make-up is actually more frightening. And that tree rape scene...just awesomely done. Truly disturbing stuff...but in a good way.
Sam Raimi is a master and this was his first film that he directed. He's so energenic behind the camera that the camera movements in this film [now known as the "Raimi POV shot" by some film scholars] are absolutely relentless and innovative for its time. The steadycam is in effect here, as well as great distorted angles that up the ante. This film builds and builds on tension and suspense that you can actually cut it with a knife. This is a very stylish film. It's a work of art. Raimi actually scares you with just his camera movements, which is absolutely amazing. Sam Raimi is a fuckin' genius and this film proves it in a big way. Without his input, THE EVIL DEAD would just be another film. But he takes it to a whole new level.
The acting is amateurish but it actually enhances the film, rather than hurt it. Ellen Sandwess is decent as rape victim Cheryl, but really kicks it up a notch once she becomes a demon. Sandwess was one mean, crazy bitch. And her make-up and distorted voice creeped me the fuck out. I wouldn't mess with that lady, nuh-uh! Hal Delrich was half funny, half annoying as Scotty. He did okay. Betsy Baker as Linda and Sarah York as Shelly are cool too, but are even better as demons.
Obviously, the star of the film is Bruce Campbell as Ash. He's not the Ash many EVIL DEAD fans are used to [that wouldn't happen until EVIL DEAD 2 - the best of the EVIL DEAD trilogy] where he spouts one-liners and does evil away with a chainsaw. Here, Ash is more down-to-earth and Campbell plays the character extremely well. He's the not the sharpest tool in the shed or the kind of hero any of us would look to at this point. But Campbell is still a cool guy and he plays Ash cool as well. Hell, I think Campbell was really freaked out doing most of these scenes. If he wasn't, he sure fooled me. But it's always nice to see a dude be the final person standing and Campbell handles all the physical stuff well. A star was born in this film. Too bad he's not an A-list celebrity because he deserves to be one. But at least us horror fans can appreciate the guy. Campbell is one of the reasons why we love THE EVIL DEAD so damn much.
THINGS I THOUGHT ABOUT TO CONJURE UP THE DEAD WHILE WATCHING THIS FILM
1. Singing in the car with your friends is a fun pastime. Too bad Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson can't participate for obvious reasons.
2. Staying in a creepy log cabin may not be a bright idea. Abraham Lincoln lived in one and look what happened to him. Coincidence? I think not.
3. Don't draw near a windy window. Not only will the pages turn, but you'll accidentally draw the Book of the Dead. No one wants that.
4. Leaky pipes are bad. Not only will your water bill be high, but it can get a girl preggers.
6. If you want to get laid, give a girl a shiny necklace. If she's a good girl, give her a pearl necklace as a happy ending to your day!
7. Demons have the power to...be great at card tricks? I knew Criss Angel and David Copperfield were evil!
8. It's scary when your girlfriend becomes a demon. That usually happens after your marry them. At least you know what you're getting yourself into before the fact!
9. Don't ever beat a female demon with your wood. Like a porn star, they'll eventually gush over it with some kind of bodily fluid.
10. The only way to stop demons is to destroy the book that unleashed them. Maybe illiteracy is a good thing!
THE FINAL HOWL
THE EVIL DEAD is one of the best horror films ever created. The story is simple but the action, blood, gore, and scares are ferocious. For a film that's 26 years old, it holds up extremely well. If you want to watch a fun, cringe-worthy film involving zombified demons, THE EVIL DEAD is for you. So come and join us...join us...